Developer Surveys: Incentives and Best Practices

A Developer Surveys question was asked by an attendee at my recent DevRelate webinar, “Developer Relations Best Practices and Tools of the Trade“. My question is, how do you get people to answer your surveys? What groups of developers are you targeting and how do you do it?

Developers to Target for a Survey

What groups of developers should you target? The answer to this question depends on what your product, platform and service you are providing and the developers you are looking to target. Are you looking for open source developers, enterprise developers, ISVs, OEMs, hobbyists, etc? Is there a specific global region or country list where you want to survey developers. Looking at the Evans Data global development research reports and developer panel you’ll see the developer segment list as: Commercial (ISVs), Custom (SI/VAR), In-house Corporate, Scientific, OEM and Other. For job titles you’ll see: Programmers/Software Developers, Software Architects, Systems Analysts, Project or Product Managers, CIOs, CTOs, MIS Management, and Others.

Developer Surveys

The Developer Panel That Evans Data Uses for Surveys

When conducting demand-side primary research it becomes important to recruit the participants (or samples) from sources that are as unbiased as possible. During the years that EDC has been recruiting developers to participate in surveys this ideal has continuously been foremost in our efforts. Consequently, though we have used over 100 different individual sources for recruiting,the following principles are strictly adhered to and consistently applied:

  • No vendor lists have ever been used in EDC subscription surveys and none have ever been added to the panel
  • No platform-specific lists have ever been used in any EDC general subscription surveys and none have ever been added to the general panel
  • No language-specific lists have ever been used in any EDC subscriptions surveys and none have ever been added to the panel

In this way we provide the most eclectic and unbiased sample available anywhere. With thousands of developers chosen in a deliberately unbiased way from a wide variety of neutral lists, our data truly provides in-depth looks at representative samples of the developer population.

You can learn more about the Evans Data Developer Panel on the Panel Profile page. You can find out more about Evans Data’s Research and Developer Panel at “DevRelate Webinar Replay: Driving Your Business Success via Developer Research“. Note: you need to join the DevRelate program (membership is free) to watch the webinar replay and download the slides!

Incentives to Get More Responses for your Developer Surveys

There are several ways to provide incentives for developers to answer surveys (my answers are not meant to be a single choice, you could use a combination of incentives).

  1. Offer incentives – for completely/correctly/seriously filled out surveys provide points to show badges/ranking for survey takers (points can be accumulated to purchase gifts and other items), cash (check), gift cards/certificate, physical prizes, free download of a report, eBook or tool. Mailing cash/prize incentives costs more money but might be worth the cost for really important surveys.
  2. Levels of incentives – Have a certain incentive if the devleoper takes the survey right away, have lesser points/prizes if you have to remind the developer.
  3. Offer to share the results (anonymized) with all survey takers.
  4. On the survey – get right to the questions without a lot of introduction info or marketing
  5. Offer a free or discount on your product/service for developers who take your survey
  6. Offer to make a donation to a charity (old programmers home?) in the name of the developers who fill out your surveys

Developer Survey Best Practices

Here are a few best practices that we use at Evans Data.

  1. Include a space in the survey where the developer can nominate another developer to join your developer survey membership. This will get you additional current and future survey takers.
  2. Make sure your surveys are not too long. At Evans Data we’ve found the sweet spot for survey duration to be 10-15 minutes regardless of the number or complexity of the questions.
  3. Mix up the types of answers – Yes/No, Multi-Choice, Fill In, Forced Ranking, One per column, One per row, etc. This helps ensure that survey respondents don’t go quickly through the questions and choose patterns of answers to fill out the survey and get the incentive.
  4. Include qualifying questions up front in your survey to make sure the survey is filled out by the right target audience.
  5. Between Evans Data surveys, we put up a series of single cool/interesting polling questions to keep our developer panel active and engaged. We give panel members the results in real time. We also create infographics for some of the quick polls for panel members to see.
  6. For categorical, Yes/No, True.False and choose from a list based question with answers, randomize the answer choices.

There are many articles written by survey tool vendors giving guidance about best practices. Go to their sites for additional information or use Google search for survey tools and best practices.

What do you use for your Developer Relations Surveys?

Send me an email if you use specific survey tools and services. If you have your own best practices that work for your incentives and best practices, pass them along and I will use them in future blog posts and webinars.

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David Intersimone “David I”
Vice President of Developer Communities
Evans Data Corporation
Skype: davidi99
Twitter: @davidi99